This list originally appeared on Kinja’s Observation Deck.

By Arpad Okay. “Hey everybody, it’s Bob and David!

With Bob and David, the Netflix revival of possibly the most beloved sketch comedy show in history, HBO’s Mr. Show with Bob and David, is now a thing on television. Yes, us Mr. Show folks look forward to With Bob and David with the same enthusiasm as we do whenever we revisit classic sketches from the original. Overflowing with talent and ideas, it blew our collective minds.

Mr. Show’s genesis was the “Un-Cabaret” comedy troupe, which included both Bob and David and a laundry list of other stand-up comedy legends, like Patton Oswalt, Janeane Garofalo and Brain Posehn. The writing staff of Mr. Show included Posehn as well as Bill Odenkirk, Jay Johnston, Paul F. Tompkins and many other great writers. Practically every person tied to the show went on to form the backbone of contemporary comedy, and going back to watch Mr. Show is like watching the changing of the guard. It has some of the tightest, most ridiculous writing to ever air on television, and a format innovation that no one had ever seen before: transitions between each sketch, linking them all together into one long, nonstop rollercoaster of a narrative.

© Brillstein-Grey Entertainment / Courtesy: Everett Collection

© Brillstein-Grey Entertainment / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Actually, that makes it a little difficult to pull stand-alone examples from the show to accurately represent its quality. Like a good stand-up act, much of the comedy turns back in on itself; little references to offhand jokes from the beginning take the huge laughs at the end and push them even further. Linking the sketches makes whole episodes much more powerful than individual segments.

Not easy, but always the kind of challenge I am up for, so I pulled my copy of What Happened?! (Naomi Odenkirk’s guide to the show) from the shelf and got to ranking. I have pulled ten of the best sketches in Mr. Show history to remind us all why we are so excited to see these guys back in the saddle again.


10. Pallies. Mr. Show had a lot of satire, sure, but much of it lied deeper than you’d expect. What appears to be a Goodfellas sketch — an SNL Digital Short from 10+ years before they existed — is actually a thorough lancing of those motherfather Chinese dentists who would dare to censor broadcast television.

9. Ventriloquists. More satire, this time benefitting from heavy revision in the writers’ room. Let’s take an idea (the bicoastal rap feuds so popular in those days) and push it, and then keep on pushing it. Choo-Choo is also a great example of an inter-episode reference, the equivalent of incorporating your first stand up joke of the set into the punchline of your finale.

8. FF Woodycooks. Mr. Show at its most cartoonish. Paul F. Tompkins and Jay Johnston were born to play the roles of bumbling crooks. Vince Gilligan loved this sketch so much, there’s a little reference to it in Breaking Bad.

7. The Joke: The Musical. A musical with songs you absolutely do not want to get stuck in your head, but probably will anyway. This is what I am talking about regarding the inseparability of sketches in the episode: episode 102, What To Think, features the character of Senator Tankerbell censoring the arts to protect the people, as illustrated by an old joke he likes to tell over and over. The sharp writing of this sketch — skewering musical theater, and as usual pushing the boundaries way beyond where you’d expect — help it to stand alone. Plus, that milking machine though.

6. The Devastator. More tight, tight writing. The whole cast shines in this sketch, the jokes build upon themselves, and there are plenty of left-field throw-away jokes that are delightful as they are inexplicable. “Local Favorites?” Sure.

5. Megaphone Crooners. More stupid songs. More silly ideas. The Monsters of Megaphone Tour is another fine example of the writing starting in a strange place and going further and further out there. Episode 206, The Velveteen Touch of a Dandy Fop, is perfect from start to finish- Subway, Donut Shop, Megaphone Crooners, Greenlight Gang, Coupon: The Movie, every sketch (and every link that connects those sketches) is flat out hilarious.

4. Landlords. One of the basic tenets of Mr. Show is that yelling is funny, and this one delivers. A nice satire of the complications of relationships as told through landlords. The appearance of Paul F. Tompkins pushes it over the top and the song that results from his confrontation with David Cross pushes over the top over the top.

3. Pre-Taped Call-In Show. This is a brainy idea executed beautifully. David Cross nails it, the extras (Sweet Gerald) nail it, what could have been a train wreck of a sketch comes across hilarious. This is the kind of thing that people talk about when they infer the writing room were a bunch of stoners. (That, and the “Drugachusetts” sketch.)

2. Lie Detector. This one has it all: the ensemble cast, the escalating humor, the fact that everyone on staff is a stand-up genius and knows how to deliver a funny line to make it funnier. “Lie Detector” and “Ventriloquists” (and “Drugachusetts”) are all sketches in episode 304, “Oh, You Men“, which is another of the strongest start-to-finishes in the show’s history.

1. Founding Fathers. This is the best sketch on Mr. Show. Bob Odenkirk’s Jefferson, David Cross as Ben Franklin, Tom Kenny as some kind of weird Dead End Kids Lincoln, Button Gwinnett’s flag, Franklin’s poo box, “One week later”… this sketch takes my breath away. Probably because I’m laughing so damn hard.

Bonus sketch: The Legend of TJ O’Pootertoot. Leading up to Mr. Show was the short-lived Ben Stiller Show, featuring segments by Stiller, Bob Odenkirk, Janeane Garofalo and Andy Dick, and appearances by Dino Stamatopoulos, David Cross and so on. It was a Mr. Show primer, and nothing makes that clearer than the satire-meets-stupidity of this sketch. Plus, another catchy song.

This barely scratches the surface: there were another half-dozen sketches it nearly killed me to cut to get the list down to ten, many solid sketches that would carry over from a live-on-stage segment to a video short and then kick off another live performance as a joke. Unbreakable chains of comedy.

Looking to the future with With Bob and David, the writing staff being the same group of people, and none of them have gotten less funny over the years, and the potential for guest appearances (everyone from Scott Adsit to Jerry Minor to Sarah Silverman appeared in the original)… I have some serious hope.

Did Arpad skip your favorite skit? Share your most favored ‘Mr. Show’ sketch in the comments section below.

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